Viewing the Perseid meteor shower

August 3, 2013

Next Sunday and Monday, Aug. 11 and 12, the Perseid meteor shower peaks. The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that is very regular in its timing. It lasts for weeks in late summer, but this year it “peaks” early in the morning next Sunday and Monday. However, you don’t have to wait until the peak nights to watch for the Perseid meteors. You can start looking now!
The hours after midnight produce more meteors, than those hours before midnight. But the early evening hours are more likely to produce an earthgrazer –What’s an “earthgrazer”? Earthgrazers are meteors that are traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Because their “radiant” or originating point is closer to the horizon, they travel horizontally across the sky-which means they are longer, slower, more colorful…and much more rare.

This year the moon will set after midnight. Just when the meteors really start flying. In the wee hours of the early morning if you’re in a dark location you may see 50 meteors an hour from the Persieds. The new moon is Wednesday, Aug. 7, by Friday, Aug. 9 the moon is less than 10% illuminated and by Tuesday, Aug. 13, when the Perseid Meteor shower peaks, it will be 45% illuminated. But again the moonsets shortly after midnight, just when the meteor shower really starts getting active.
So where to look for the meteors? The Perseids streak all across the heavens and through many different constellations. So you don’t have to facing the constellation Perseus (which rises in the northeast) to see the meteors.

Some tips for better meteor viewing:
-Dark skies away from the glare of city lights are essential
-Find a place to observe in the country.
-With an open view of the sky-not too many close buildings, trees or mountains.
-Your eyes take some 20 minutes to dark-adapt. If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted”
-Give yourself at least an hour of viewing time.
-Insect repellent as needed to keep the mosquitoes at bay.